The Importance of Job Titles in Your Career

Maybe it’s a vocational hazard, but in the course of meeting new people, I will always ask them what their job title is. Because I’ve written countless resumes, I have learned so much about industries, job responsibilities and job titles. When I hear someone’s job title, I can quickly assess what their main responsibilities are, what they do day-to-day and what metrics they’re measured by.

Sales Representative over Account Manager?

I have a client and friend who work at the same company. When I met with my client, I looked at the job title on his card. It said Account Manager. I asked him if he and my friend did the same thing at the company. He said, yes. But my friend’s business card said Sales Representative. I asked why that was. He said she must have chosen that title. Seriously?! Given the opportunity to choose between Account Manager and Sales Representative, she chose Sales Representative. My friend actually has more experience in the industry and probably beats my client in monthly sales currently, but her title does not suggest that at all.

Another interesting factor is that when I first met my client, I did not realize he did the same thing as my friend. He seemed very invested in the company, so I assumed he was one of the principals. My takeaway was that my client is more serious about his future with the company and so chose a title that conferred a little more authority, even though he’s not quite there yet. Job titles are important because they communicate to the world what you do. If you’re going to be in the job market, your job title tells your reader where you’re at currently in your career and what they might be able to expect from you if they hire you.

Job Titles Do Impact Your Career Advancement

Job titles are important throughout your career, and they should be given as much attention as salary, vacation and benefits when negotiating your job offer.

Since the recession, many who were fortunate to keep their jobs took on additional responsibilities due to lay-offs without the requisite change in job title. I have clients who tell me that their job title is “X”, but they do the work of “Y, Z, & ABC.” When your title does not accurately reflect the level of authority or the responsibilities of your job, it makes it harder to convey on your resume that you really are a Program Manager even though your job title is Project Manager. Your reader is going to zero in on your title to get an idea of what you do or did. When you have to explain that you did a lot more than what your title implies, you sacrifice prime resume real estate. And chances are your reader may stop reading and assume you are not a good fit.

Title denotes authority as well. In larger organizations that depend on a clear hierarchy, it is important your title reflects your authority, both inside and outside the company. In smaller organizations that are growing, everyone wears different hats. But it is still important that your job title reflect the level of authority you possess within that company for your present and your future standing should you choose to leave.

Job Titles Could Impact Salary & Compensation

In larger organizations, if you’re at the Director level, but have been performing all the duties of a VP for a couple of years, it’s going to be hard for HR to approve a salary increase commensurate with your job duties if your title doesn’t reflect what you’ve been doing. As soon as you start taking on more responsibilities, you should lobby for a change in title, which might also include a salary increase.

Finessing the Job Title

Changing job titles on the resume is always a possibility. However, when reference checks begin, your prospective employer is going to ask your current or previous employer to verify that you were the Vice President of Bells and Whistles. If your title really was Enhancements Manager, your credibility may come into question. That is why it is important that you pay attention to job titles throughout your career, and that you carefully negotiate for the right title if you feel your current title does not reflect your appropriate level of authority or responsibility.

The best is yet to come,